We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Duggan's Mission Chapel
Jane Martha Houlberg was joyfully reunited with her husband Jens Peter Houlberg, Jr. on April 25, 2022. She passed away peacefully at the age of 94 with family members by her side. A long life, well-lived and with no regrets. A woman of deep Christian belief, she is now in the presence of her Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.
Born January 24, 1928 during the Great Depression and raised in the Chicago suburb of Edgebrook in the Forest Glen Community to parents Ethel & Frank Sorenson, Sr. Her grandparents immigrated from Norway, Denmark and Sweden. She was a big sister to younger brother Frank Sorenson, Jr. five years her junior. She would often say she was born the same year as child star Shirley Temple. Her mom could curl Jane’s hair using just her fingers to resemble Shirley’s curly locks! She took both toe and tap dance lessons. Jane was a graduate of William Howard Taft High School. This is where she met her future husband, “Pete”. A charming and good-looking fellow Scandinavian, his parents immigrated from Denmark. Their first date was at a school dance held on St. Patrick’s Day called “The Blarney Bounce”. The Big Band music sound was all the rage. Her H.S. Yearbook states her pet peeve is girls who wear high heels with anklet socks! After graduation, she worked downtown for Langley & Co. Insurance as a stenographer to the President and did claims intake for their Fine Jewelry & Furs Claims Department. Her pastimes included drawing, reading books (especially fond of biographies) and going often to the movie theatre. One of the live intermission acts was a very young Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey’s Band! Favorite stars of hers were Jean Harlow, Tyrone Power, Fred & Ginger and Lana Turner.
Jane & Pete were married on June 21,1947 in Chicago with her lifelong best friend Pauline as her Maid of Honor. She shared the same wedding year as Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Phillip. Pete having received a scholarship to Art College, instead enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Shortly thereafter, Jane moved with her new groom to a modest apartment in San Diego where Pete was stationed. While there, she worked as a Safe Deposit Box clerk for Bank of America in Logan Heights.
The couple moved to Los Angeles County so Pete could join his father’s ornamental iron shop Houlberg & Son Ornamental Iron in West L.A. During the late 40’s and into the early 1960’s he learned the blacksmithing trade from his father (who previously learned it from his father a Royal Blacksmith to the King of Denmark). Business grew. Many famous clients hired them for their beautifully handmade gates, railings, and decorative pieces included well known movie stars of the day Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.
Jane was now a full-time homemaker having been blessed with 4 children in 8 years! 3 boys and 1 girl. Eric Jon (’49), Michael Frank (’50), Keith Peter (’53) and Jody Leigh (’57). As a hobby, the couple also bred and raised Dachshund dogs in their modest G.I. Van Nuys home. They kept the last two pups Adam & Eve as pets.
After the passing of Jane’s father-in-law J.P. Houlberg, Sr., Pete expanded his business to now include structural steel. He purchased land in Santa Monica and built a plant from the ground up in the early 60’s. The new business was called Houlberg Iron, Inc. Family members Eric, Keith, Jody, sister-in-law Elissa and father Frank all worked there in different capacities at different times. Soon thereafter, the family moved from the West L.A. Cheviot Hills area to the San Fernando Valley, first in Woodland Hills, then settled into a California ranch style home in the hills of Encino.
Both Jane & Pete loved to entertain and have barbecues by the swimming pool. Living nearby were their parents, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and their children who would join in. Their annual New Year’s Day Party was always fun. It included eating Pete’s intensely spicy homemade chili, drinking Bloody Mary cocktails and watching various football “bowl” games plus the Rose Parade on T.V.’s scattered about the house and enclosed patio.
Life was busy with 4 kids, yet Jane found the time to volunteer for several years at a nearby hospital. Her favorite task was to hold babies and assist new mothers to their cars after they were discharged. She got a kick out of helping comedienne Carol Burnett to her car with newborn daughter, also named Jody!
After a trip to Northern Europe in the early 70’s, Pete & Jane returned with a greater appreciation for fine wine and food, museums and architecture. More trips followed. Some road trips, some cruises to places like Tahiti & Bora Bora, Mexico, Scandinavia & the Baltic nations, favorites included France, Italy, Greece,Turkey, Israel, and Northern Africa. Each time upon their return, they expressed a deep gratitude and appreciation for the United States, our freedom, opportunities and our way of life.
The couple often entertained Pete’s business clients by attending live stage performances at downtown L.A. venues, held season box tickets at the Hollywood Bowl for musical performances outdoors in the warm summer weather. A favorite was to listen to Orchestra maestro John Williams’ 4th of July Concert with patriotic music and fireworks erupting in the skies while eating KFC chicken. There were always charity events, annual Steel Fabricator dinners, Wine Appreciation Club events and Sunday scenic drives typically through the canyons out to the California coast.
The kids were getting older, moving out, getting married, and having babies of their own. Jane became a grandmother at the very young age of 39! All together she had 9 grandchildren: Brady, Jon, James, Laura, Ryan, Cara, Christos, Jacquelyn, and Nicholas; 7 great-grandchildren: Sienna, Chloe, Hanna, Taylor, Eva, Dana, & West.
After Pete’s retirement, they moved to Hancock Park in L.A. in a beautiful Mediterranean home. Pete took a trip to France and with the keen eye of his team of 2 decorators, he brought back a container filled with French and Italian antiques and objects d’art for this home. They enjoyed and appreciated being surrounded by beautiful things. It was a far cry from the modest ranch style home in the Valley. With the kids now all out of the house, they experienced empty nest syndrome. Jane saw a small newspaper ad about a Scandinavian foreign cultural exchange program and arranged for 2 high school aged Swedish girls Mari & Katarina (cousins) to live with them. This was an opportunity to show them everything California had to offer. What fun it was for everyone! Mari later returned to California and attended a year of school here. Sadly Katarina passed away shortly later. Jane & Pete flew to Sweden for Mari’s wedding. She is considered part of the family and keeps in close contact even to this day.
Next, was a move to idyllic Santa Barbara. They quickly made new friends and had frequent visitors from Los Angeles. Jane had a serious cancer scare in the early 80’s. After successful surgery and radiation treatment, she experienced a deepened dedication of her faith. She was visited daily by the hospital’s chaplain who prayed with her. She read the Bible from cover to cover, joined a Lutheran church in Santa Barbara and a bible study group. She frequently watched religious T.V. programs, donated money to various Christian charities and their mission work. And she faithfully read her nightly devotional book until her vision no longer made it possible. When Pete became terminally ill in ‘94, it was the very same hospital chaplain (that had visited and prayed with her previously) that came to the house and led Pete to the Lord.
Six years after Pete’s passing, Jane moved up to the North Bay to combine households with daughter Jody and her family in Santa Rosa. She loved the change of seasons Sonoma County offered. Jane attended the Santa Rosa Republican Women’s Group meetings and found good company in a social group of widowed persons. She considered them “real friends”. When their house was consumed by the Wildfires in 2017, Jane, Jody, and the dogs lived with the Briggs family temporarily, then a rental home in Yountville for 6 weeks and by the grace of God, found a small California bungalow on a beautiful street in central Sonoma to purchase. It is here where real post-fire healing took place. Jane’s favorite pastime was to sit in the warmth of the sun on the front porch and “people watch” all the bicyclists, people walking with their dogs, delivery trucks, etc. She loved the peace and quiet, home cooked meals, Jody’s two dogs, and visits from family.
When she required a little more help, she enjoyed the company of Senior Helpers’ aides Cindy, Saruul, and Alexya over the last 5 years. As mobility became more difficult, she was grateful to have physical therapist Rebekah and manicurist Gracie come to her for appointments.
The family would like to thank everyone for their presence in Jane’s life and the love you showed her. She was cherished and will be greatly missed.
A Memorial Service will be held on:
Friday, May 20, 2022 at 3 p.m.
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
16290 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476
Refreshments reception following at the church
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following charities: